The day Sia slid into musical star's DMs
A starring role in Hamilton on Broadway changed everything for Leslie Odom Jr.
As the somehow sympathetic antagonist Aaron Burr, he was widely regarded as one of the best performers in Lin Manuel Miranda's musical masterpiece, and with that came the obvious accolades, including a Tony and an Emmy Award in 2016.
But it was the chance moments the production afforded him that changed the course of his career and saw him take the leap from stage to film after 18 years on Broadway - now starring in Sia's debut movie Music and as singer Sam Cooke in Regina King's One Night in Miami.
One of those moments was the night Sia, who was at the height of her singing career, was compelled to meet him backstage after sitting in the Broadway theatre in tears.
"The really awesome thing I found being a part of that company was whenever you did have the opportunity to meet one of your heroes, it was such a special moment," Odom, 39, says, having just "somewhat successfully" fed his three-year-old daughter Lucille in their Los Angeles home, which is still in lockdown.
"Normally when you meet these people at a party or a restaurant you're going to meet so much of their ego… but after they've spent three hours watching Hamilton, we would meet them in a place where their guards really were down and their hearts were open."
"Sia still had tears in her eyes when we met, so we had a long conversation backstage."
It was almost a year later in 2017 when Odom says the Australian singing star "slid into my DMs" asking to meet for coffee, where she would offer him a chance to star in her first movie.
It was a chance he never thought possible before Hamilton, and that simple fact was enough for him to throw caution to the wind and enter the film world with Sia.
"My motto since leaving Hamilton, which was in many ways a role of a lifetime, putting that behind me I said I want to work on all the types of things that no one would let me work on before," Odom said
"That's why my career has mostly been focused on film and music - those were the two things that felt all but impossible to get a foothold in before Hamilton put us all on the receiving end of such good will."
"Sia was offering me the opportunity to take the leap with her and I gladly grabbed onto that shooting star and went along for the ride. I was terrified but I went along for the ride."
Music, which is in Australian cinemas now, follows a teenaged girl named Music (Maddie Ziegler), who is nonverbal and on the autism spectrum, and ends up in the care of her struggling estranged half-sister Zu (Kate Hudson) and their kind neighbour Ebo (Odom).
The film includes Music's imaginary world filled with dancing and original music composed by Sia and performed by the cast.
Odom says they spent three weeks in rehearsals in Los Angeles, which he came to dub "Camp Sia", where the star taught him about singing, recording and writing.
"It's very rare for me to not have to leave any parts of myself at the door," he said.
"Most of us muck it up because we spend time judging what we are inspired to do and talking ourselves out of it. Sia doesn't judge herself in that way, so she's able to create in these really bold and exciting ways because her channel is not blocked. That's how you end up on these vibrant, interesting, almost childlike sets of hers. It's a doorway into her imagination, so it was really beautiful."
Music's release comes after Hamilton reached new audiences last year having been added to global streaming platform Disney+ , cementing Odom as a genuine screen star.
Hamilton will next open at Sydney's Lyric Theatre in March with Jason Arrow playing Alexander Hamilton and Lyndon Watts in Odom's role as Aaron Burr, "the damn fool" who shoots Hamilton in a duel.
When it comes to how a sung-and-rapped-through hip hop musical about America's Founding Fathers continues to resonate around the world, Odom says, rather than offering any "magic formula" it is simply "a story told well".
"There's a part of it that is just miraculous. There's a part of it that is unexplainable. That's the gift of it," he said.
"It's a hero's journey. It's a story of pride and hubris and ambition and failure and loss. It's a story of us. So I think that if you can pull out those themes in almost any story people will connect to it."
But for Odom, who also released a single, Cold, with Sia last year, the personal gift of Hamilton continues to be the unexpected trajectory it sparked into places he never intended to go.
"I would not have dared to dream this big for myself," he says.
"I don't want to leave parts of myself at the door. I'm looking for projects that continue to ask me to do everything that I know how to do, and maybe some things that I never thought that I'd be able to do."
Music is in cinemas now
Originally published as Day Sia 'slid into my DMs'